Published on 8th July, 2018, in The Hindustan Times
By Jamal Shaikh
1. Devdutt, tell us: what’s the hardest part about narrating a mythological tale?
Creating a seamless entertaining and engrossing narrative that aligns perfectly with philosophy.
2. How important are facts in mythology?
Facts are everybody’s truth. Fiction is nobody’s truth. Myths are somebody’s truth. We can be quite sure that a particular story or idea comes from a particular Hindu text, but we can never be sure of its date. For me, Krishna is God. Is God a fact or fiction? Is belief fact or fiction? Who decides? The devotee or the historian?
3. Given the strong connect of mythology with religion, does one have to be more careful about sensitivities?
In the 19th century, colonial powers used religion as synonym with monotheism and truth while polytheism was mythology, hence falsehood, and atheism was heresy. In the 21st century, following the popularity of atheism amongst intellectuals, scientists and academicians, monotheism/religion is also categorised as mythology. Mythologists, however, have always seen atheism, monotheism and polytheism as three different world views, populated either by no god, one god or many gods. Religion today is mythology corrupted by politicians (who are always overly sensitive when it suits them) while mythology is religion liberated by wise sages.
4. Which is the funniest mythological tale you’ve ever heard? And the most unbelievable?
That ‘actually’ God is male. That ‘actually’ peacocks don’t have sex. That ‘actually’ ancient India had aeroplanes and plastic surgery, but no homosexuality!
5. Finally, you’re quite active with opinion on Twitter. How do you handle trolls and fans?
I prefer fans focusing on my work rather than me personally. It’s a good ego boost when they acknowledge me or cheer me but ego is a dangerous thing, as we all know. I love trolling trolls. They feel validated and superior, for a few moments. It’s my social service.